Friday, August 22, 2008
This (‘Castledene’ house and petrol station, junction of Swan and Twickenham Roads, Hanworth, see Old Photographs of Feltham Bedfont and Hanworth, no.63) is where Val and I lived when Raymond and Sandra were born. Danny and Joan lived with Gary in one room, about 15 feet by 15 (bottom right hand front of photo). Mum lived in one room about 12 feet by 12 (rear left hand of side of photo) and Val and I lived in the two rooms upstairs (left hand side of photo).
Most of my childhood was spent during the war years. Being children, at times it all seemed like a game; apart from when the sirens sounded and the anti-aircraft guns started firing. It was hard to distinguish between bombs falling and anti-aircraft guns. At night we would stand by the back door and look towards London and the whole sky would be red like a sunset, and the fact that there were no other lights due to the blackout made it even more dramatic. The German Luftwaffe decided to send the bombers over at the same time every night, which was 7.30p.m. They would go away at 9.30 p.m. My father made up mine and Danny’s bed under the stairs with scaffold planks as protection, and we got into bed dreading 7.30 coming.
During the war one of my mother’s jobs was as cook at the The British Restaurant. This was place which was opened to feed the population. It was a large building which stood on the land which is now Tesco’s in Feltham High Street. Lots of people from all walks of life would go there, such as school children, for a meal. Danny and I went there and a lunch would cost 9d. It was quite a task to make any food interesting since things were on ration and you had to make do with what was available. Mum’s specialty was “Nelson tart” which was concocted out of dried fruit and other “secret” ingredients and put into a pastry tart. It was quite a treat and became famous in Feltham.
Later in the war she also worked at the G.A.L. (General Aircraft Limited) which was a big factory and workshops attached to what was then Hanworth Air Park, now Hanworth Park. They were involved in the repair and maintenance of Spitfire fighter planes and it was a hive of activity with the Spitfires taking off and landing over Feltham.
The test pilot who was attached to the works was a man called Woods, his nickname was “Timber”, and now and then he would wait for all the people to be leaving the works in droves, down Browells Lane, then he would swoop down very low over them, and they would all dive for the ground. Then he would come back waggling his wings and everyone would be shaking their fists at him. He must have thought it great fun!
Mum was the pastry cook in the canteen at G.A.L, which was very hard work since about 2,000 people worked there, but I suppose, on looking back, they were all part of the team which helped fight the “Battle of Britain”, which was the turning point of the war.
Everything was on ration during the war, food was short and everyone kept chickens and grew their own vegetables. People were always very friendly and helpful and there was always plenty to talk about. The papers would print the latest war front maps showing the advance or retreat of the allies. We would stand in the gardens watching the dog fights between the Spitfires and the German fighters. When a German one got shot down, everyone would cheer. We thought one had been shot down one day because it went into a dive and everyone cheered, but then it came out of the dive and went off and we heard later that it had machine gunned thee children coming out of a school. Even the police on duty were fainting.
During the war there were always lots of soldiers around, together with sailors and airmen, and a lot of American troops. They were well paid and had good food and their uniforms were flashy, so all the girls went for them, which made our boys very jealous. People would ask them into their houses for tea and most people had American friends. The Canadians were very well thought of and we knew a couple of them.
Feltham was a garrison town where troops were kitted out at the army depot before going overseas. We would be sitting at home and a knock would come at the door. When answered there would be a sergeant with some soldiers asking how many rooms we had. When mum said three bedrooms and two living rooms, the sergeant would send four soldiers in and they would be billeted with us for about fortnight.
They used to come into the house with their kitbags and rifles and you could hardly move, but it was all very friendly and quite exciting.
I went to Cardinal Road School, which was about 1.5 miles from home. Quite often whilst on the way to school the sirens would sound for an air raid and we would go into the nearest air raid shelter, we always carried a gas mask with us in a small cardboard box over our shoulder and we would be in trouble if we got caught without it. Our teacher’s name was Miss English and she was 20 years old and very pretty. Occasionally, her boyfriend, who was in the RAF, would drop into the school and they would kiss and cuddles in front of the class. We would all sit there watching with our mouths open! Most of the day was spent down the air raid shelter.
On one occasion I helped myself to a large bottle of cochineal (red food coloring) from Woolworths. Only a minute amount was needed to color food, and I put the whole bottle in the Feltham pond, which turned red and was the talk of the town. They must have thought it was some terrible omen!
We were always looking for souvenirs of the war such as shrapnel (parts of shells or bombs) and one day we took a short cut to school which meant jumping across the electrified railway lines as we often did, then crossing the allotments. During the night there must have been an incendiary raid and hundreds of small bombs weighing about 5 pounds each were dropped by the German planes. They contained phosphorous which burned fiercely for a while and then exploded sending burning phosphorous everywhere. The allotment ground was soft where it had been dug over, and the devices had not “gone off”, so we got very excited about finding them. We pulled up six each (there was Danny and myself, and our friends the two Askew brothers), which made a total of 24 bombs in all, found some string and rope and tied them up and made our way home dragging them through the streets. How no one saw us I don’t know, as it was a trip of about a mile.
When we got home we put the bombs down the bottom of our respective gardens and when the Askew’s parents got home and found them, all hell broke loose.
The Air Raid Police were called in to evacuate the houses while the bomb disposal squad took the bombs away, and we were never allowed to take any more “souvenirs” home.
A big treat for us was going to the cinema to see the Saturday matinees, showing such things as Flash Gordon the Space Man. We would never have believed that man would travel in space for real in the future.
We would also have a weekly visit to the cinema to see a “big” film. The more popular the film, the more people wanted to see it, and the bigger the queue. The tickets were 9d, 1/3d and 2/3d, and sometimes we would have to queue for an hour in the rain. We would stand there wishing we could afford to go in the 2/3d, or sometimes we would go round the back of the cinema and sit by a back door and listen to the sound, trying to figure out what was happening. One of the things we did was “bunking in,” in other words, getting in without paying. We would have a collection to pay for one ticket and when the chosen boy was inside, he would make pretend to go to the toilet and then open the emergency door to let the others in. This was always risky because the door man and usherettes were always on the lookout. The hardest cinema to bunk into was The Playhouse in Feltham, which stood at what is now the entrance to Tesco’s. We found a window open which was into the toilets, and although it had bars up, Harry reckoned he could squeeze through. The four of us managed to squeeze through one by one, but unbeknown to us, the doorman knew what we were up to , so he waited behind the door until we were all in, then he burst in and said “caught you – now get out the way you came in”. As we were squeezing back out of the window, he proceeded to kick us all up the backside, so we never tried again!
Another thing we were always doing was scrumping. We knew where every fruit tree in the district was, as well as all the orchards. It was quite a treat to have an apple or pear and we would go to all sorts of lengths to get some. All the householders knew this, so they were well guarded by fences and wire etc., but we had ingenious ways of getting the fruit.
One of these was getting fishing net with a long pole and passing it under an apple on the tree from over the fence and knocking it off with a stick into the net.
We also thought it was a treat to “have a ride” on something. We used to hang on to the back of lorries as they were delivering round the houses. There was a railway line which had a siding on the main railway and a separate line running into the army depot via the High Street. It ran for about a mile and sometime we would jump on the back of trains for a ride. One day my friend Brian Bateson, who lived just down our road, was riding on the back of a train when it reversed. He fell off and was chopped up in front of my other friend Lenny Askew. Lenny was struck dumb and did not talk for about a fortnight from the shock. Quite a few boys from the estate got killed. We used to play around the railway lines and cross them every day on the way to school. It was an unprotected crossing. We also used to play and swim over the gravel pits, making rafts etc.
It was about this time my mum was always saying she would like a café, but my dad would say don’t be silly, we don’t have the money. One day she came home and said she had found a shop on the Great West Road in Heston and the estate agent said she could have it rent free for six months if she could repair the bomb damage, which was mainly the ceilings, so Dad, Doris and a friend made all he necessary repairs and Mum and Doris opened the café with cups and saucers from home. Before long, because mum was a good cook, it became very busy. Sometimes a convoy of troops would pull up and it was packed out. Years later, in 1979, Sandra was taken to an Italian restaurant by her boss, and I told her it was the very same shop where we had our café.
My grandfather on my Dad’s side was a caretaker of a synagogue in Streatham with his second wife (my dad’s mother died) and we started to live in the flat above the café and my Dad let granddad live in the house at Feltham.
They thought it was wonderful to have a house with a garden. The café got so busy that mum decided to open next door as a restaurant and Doris lived in the other flat with Harry Craske and her daughter Drucilla.
This is a Memory of Heston
By this time bombing was almost over, but the Germans started to send VI’s over, which we known as doodlebugs. They were pilotless planes packed with high explosives and you could stand outside and watch them in the air. Once they ran out of fuel the engine would stop and everyone would run for cover and they would crash to the ground. One night we heard one overhead and the engine stopped so we rushed under the stairs. Dad said “hold hands this one’s ours” then there was an almighty bang and all the windows blew out and the walls shook like an earthquake, but we were O.K. The following day the very same thing happened, it was a very near thing.
An unexploded bomb landed in the garden and the bomb disposal squad was called. They evacuated everyone as they were disarming the bomb but it blew up and killed all five of them.
When the VI’s stopped, the Germans started firing V2 rockets at us. These were less frightening since you did not hear them coming. They travelled faster than sound. One landed on Packard’s, which was just down the Great West Road, and they were laying all the bodies out on the grass verge as Danny and I went past on our bikes.
I remember at one time during the war looking up to see the sky full of Flying Fortress bombers which seemed to full the sky. It was the first of many daylight 1000 bomber raids going to Germany. When the Germans saw them coming, they must have been terrified. We also saw waves of planes towing gliders, along with other bombers carrying paratroops. When they reached the French coast, they released the gliders and that was the start of the D-Day invasion of Europe.
We had been bombed out of our home in St. George’s Buildings, in the Elephant and Castle. So, off to Feltham we went.
This was only till we could get a place of our own somewhere. It was now September 21st 1940, two days before my birthday. I little realized how long I would stay in Feltham.
We boarded a train at Waterloo Station. Feltham could have been the other end of the earth for all I knew and I gazed at all the greenery as we as we flashed by in the train. London was soon left behind. Once we passed Barnes there were only odd rows of houses and both Peter and I marvelled at the miles of grass and trees, Bedlam Park paled into insignificance when compared to open spaces like these.
Feltham was still a village at that time. It had some estates of brand new semi-detached houses with gardens both front and rear. We left the station, passed a few caravans and then crossed a huge field along a little track that ran round an immense lake that I learnt later was a disused gravel pit. There were many gravel pits in Feltham. We stopped at a neat house with a green door, a garden in front and a huge back garden too.
We only stayed there three days. Feltham had a number of nearly new houses, all empty, as well as lots of picturesque old houses. It was easy to find a house we liked. We liked all of them and were spoilt for choice. We soon settled on 107 Hounslow Road, a big family house with a big garden and a field behind it. The field had horses in it! At first we had scarcely any furniture but Dad’s Boss said he could borrow the horse and cart they used to deliver windows with and the driver volunteered to drive it down to our new home on a Sunday. Dad rode all twelve miles from the Elephant up beside the driver with what they could rescue and we had a semblance of a home again.
It was strange at first. I was used to the noise of air raids which, at the time, Feltham had very few of. I was not used to living in a modern house like this. I had been brought up amongst rows of small Victorian terraced houses and large blocks of flats. The Elephant had been a busy place with shops everywhere. The quiet of our new home with no trams (made in Feltham!) going past the door took some getting used to.
The furniture had to be cleaned before being used. It was covered in dirt and brick-dust and the big book bureau that they had somehow managed to get out of our flat had all its glass broken and its back, which had been against the wall, was full of bomb-splinter holes. Dad soon mended the glass, but the back of the bureau had those splinter-holes to the day it was sold.
The one thing that arrived before the furniture was the gas cooker. Dad was dismantling it and bringing it piecemeal down to Feltham, a bit each night on the train from Waterloo. We no longer had to cook on the iron range, known as a Kitchener; we had a proper gas cooker and a place to put it. We had a purpose-built kitchenette with a gas point to fit it to and we also had electric lights! We had never had electricity laid on before and Pete had great fun switching lights on and off every time he entered or left a room.
But back to the cooker! First came the burners, next the grill and so on. That grill was the cause of a panic in the train carriage when it came down. When a raid started, as it always did, the train came to an abrupt halt and the one dim electric light bulb, which was all that illuminated the carriage went out. The passengers all sat in the blacked-out carriage, silently praying to themselves, waiting for the bombs…This particular night a stick of bombs came down, thankfully too far to do any damage but with one accord everyone in the carriage threw themselves to the floor.
A sudden yell rang out. “Oh my God! I’ve been hit! I’ve been hit!”
Everyone was shuffling around in the dark trying to find the wounded man and they carefully laid him on the seat. “Where have you been hit?” they said. “In the foot! In the foot! Oh my God! They’ve blown my foot off!” he groaned. Unable to see a thing in the dark they carefully felt around his legs only to find both feet firmly attached. “It’s all right” they assured him. They’re both still there, there’s no blood! You must have banged it“.
While the train’s lights were still out, Dad cautiously picked up the offending parcel and quietly tucked it under his overcoat. He sat there hugging it the rest of the way home.
Furniture was at a premium. Being bombed out of our old home entitled us to enough “points” to furnish most of the rooms in our new one and the “Utility” furniture we were supplied with was quite ample for our needs. The new furniture was “new” in style also and was well made for the times. It was marked with the Utility brand. This was like two little Dutch cheeses with a narrow slice taken out of them. Even now, in some house-clearance shops and charity shops you can still come across some Utility articles today!
I started to attend Longford Senior School. Ashford County School was the nearest Grammar School. Unfortunately, it would not accept me because I hadn’t been resident in Middlesex when I passed my scholarship examination. I was born in the Elephant and Castle, in South East London and had lived South of the river. In Middlesex my scholarship counted for nought.
Wartime schooldays in Feltham were still very short and punctuated by frequent trips to the air raid shelters. We continued our lessons in the shelters and I was getting more schooling than I had had for a long time. But the incentive was gone. I knew I’d be leaving school at fourteen and now I had no chance of going to University, as I’d hoped to. Hitler had put paid to that.
The lessons were very different from those I’d become accustomed to in London. Longford seemed to concentrate more on sports. Unfortunately I had no interest in sport; gardening was also one of the school’s favourites. I learned how to grow long, straight carrots.
The trick was to time your journey to school just right, so you would get to the school gates as the siren sounded, then about face and dash home like mad so that we got to our field before the teacher on duty at the gate could usher us into the school shelters. My memories of that period seem to consist of dashing to and fro between Longford School and Hounslow Road.
We had a Morrison Air Raid Shelter. It was like a huge iron table. We erected it in our back downstairs room against the centre wall of the house. It had a thick steel mesh on all four sides. At one end the mesh lifted off and we all crawled in with our Thermos flasks and a sandwich or five, the ever-present gas mask, the dog and we spent our nights in relative comfort.
We had this type, mainly I suppose, because we had had such faith in our old deal kitchen table that had saved us when a bomb landed on our buildings in the Elephant and Castle. But we had now added a thick black curtain all the way round the shelter. We knew just what damage flying glass could do.
At the end of our garden there was a big field with a hatch-work of trenches about four feet deep criss-crossing it. These were originally intended for foundations for an estate of houses that eventually became Field Road, off Hounslow Road. The war held up the building of that estate for several years. The first houses to be built there after the war were pre-fabs.
We ran wild in that huge field, about eight of us. Oh, and two horses, which we left severely alone. They didn’t bother us much. Most of the time they were out pulling Mr. Dillon the Greengrocer’s cart; except one of them, the mare, used to occasionally run wild in the field and we would all scatter and cower in one of the trenches till she quietened down.
There were plenty of places around us just made for youngsters. Toys were scarce in those days. A stick became a gun if you looked at it right, and we spent our time as Tom Mix or Buck Rogers and there were enough trees about to give us a good game of Tarzan, the youngest always became Cheetah. We made full use of what we had around us.
And then a new threat entered our lives. As the tide of war began to turn slightly more in our favour both the Nazis and ourselves began to realize Germany wasn’t going to bomb us into submission. Sending over bomber planes was proving too costly in men and machines. So they turned to a new weapon they had devised, the Flying Bomb. These “Buzz- Bombs” or “Doodle-bugs” as we swiftly named them, were a small, pilotless jet plane.
The first one to reach London came over on June 13th 1944. They were launched from Pas-De-Calais in France from secret ramps they built there and they flew in a semblance of a straight line till they ran out of fuel. When they crashed the 2,000 lbs. of explosives that they carried caused devastation.
The R.A.F. pilots soon worked out a very risky but effective way of dealing with them. They would fly alongside them, edging closer till their wing tip crept under the wing of the Doodle then give a flip and throw the Doodle off course so it crashed early.
This manoeuvre took place over Kent where the bomb would, hopefully, explode relatively safely, thereby saving many lives. The Doodlebugs had no pilot so the Germans obviously intended to kill men, women and children, indiscriminately.
The first time I saw one I was in our back garden. We knew nothing about this new weapon yet and when I heard this strange, coarse-sounding engine I scanned the skies. You could easily recognise a German plane from an English one. The German engines had a kind of a droning sound while the English ones had more of a roar. But this one sounded wrong. Suddenly I saw this strange little plane and it was on fire at the back. It came over our roof and flew straight up the garden. Then the engine stopped without even a splutter and the plane nose-dived somewhere in the distance, beyond Feltham Lodge.
I dashed up the garden to our back door and called out to Dad. “Dad! Dad!, I just saw a plane crash, over there!.”
As I spoke excitedly another one followed the first and did exactly the same. It dived down to crash just as the first one had done.
That was the first time I saw a buzz bomb. They became fairly commonplace after that. They did a terrific amount of damage though but we soon learnt that if you heard one cut out and it was overhead you were pretty safe; it was going explode somewhere else. Only if it cut out before it reached you was there any real danger.
Then the Germans developed another, more potent, terror weapon. This was the V2 rocket. A rocket-propelled bomb packed with high explosives, far more deadly than the buzz bomb because nobody could hear them coming. There was no defence against the V2. So until the launch pads were discovered and bombed or over-run by our advancing troops they caused great damage and loss of life. But as there was no shelter that you could take to escape from them they didn’t interrupt normal life to a great extent. If you heard a buzz bomb cut out before it reached you, you ran like mad for shelter. The rockets, no one knew about them till they exploded and by then it was too late.
Soon came the time for me to leave school. The leaving age was fourteen in those days and I left Longford happily to become an indentured apprentice Printer, a job I came to hate. Dad told me I would reap the benefit of my job when I finished my apprenticeship. Which was true. But try telling that to a teenager when his friends were earning ten pounds a week in an aircraft factory.
I worked in the machine room of a small jobbing printer’s in Bedfont Lane. It was a small shop that had been converted into a print shop on the corner of Manor Lane, The Caxton Press. The windows at the front and side were covered in wooden shutters but still had the glass behind. We worked in there through the air-raids that were still happening because the noise of the machines covered the noise of an air-raid and nobody told us there was a raid on and there was no shelter in any case. One day we came out of work to find a shop on the corner, five doors from ours, had been partly demolished by a nearby bomb and we hadn’t known anything about it.
There were four lads working at Caxton’s, no men were employed there except for one old man, he was the Compositor - the typesetter. He was so deaf he wouldn’t have heard a bomb if it had dropped on his head. And one other man; he was in the Auxiliary Fire Service and was so seldom at work he might as well not have bothered.
Living was very hard during the war years, apart from the bombs. We never had enough to eat; everything was on ration, except vegetables. The clothes you wore were rationed. The food you ate was on ration. Some foods you never saw again until the war was over. The furniture you sat on was on a points system; you only got the barest essentials and all stamped with the ubiquitous Utility mark. We had a certain priority here as we had been bombed out, but that only got us the bare essentials
Mothers worked miracles to feed their families with leaflets telling you how to make things like “Woolton Pie”. This was invented by a politician named Lord Woolton. It was mostly made of “Pom”, a desiccated potato meal. It tasted nothing like a real pie because “Pom”, an American invention, tasted nothing like real potatoes.
I’ll bet Lord Woolton never ate it!
Women dashed for the shop when the word went round, “Reeves have got meat in” and then stood patiently for hours in long queues that wound into the distance only to get to the shop front just in time to see the shutters go up and be greeted by “Sorry love, that’s it for today, maybe next time”.
We were lucky to have Grandma. She could work miracles with stuff that before the war would have been consigned to the bin.
But there were so many things that had disappeared from our lives completely: oranges, we hadn’t seen one since 1939; bananas: there was a song about a banana… “Bring me back a banana, sailor boy”, but we never saw one.
Submitted by Bill Cole.
Metal dustbins, known as ‘pig bins’, were chained to many of the lamp posts, into which people put any waste scraps of food excess to the needs of their own rabbits and chickens. Lttle came from our house, where we were exhorted to “eat your dinner, or we won’t win the war”. We did, and we did, but have been given little credit for it since. One door down from us, two brothers and their families were neighbours, and had combined their gardens into one large one. At the bottom they had a sizeable pig sty, and I can remember parcels of pork being traded at the door. Once when a group of young pigs escaped onto the street, somebody phoned the police, only to be puzzled by their response of “Are they boys or girls?”, caused by them mis-hearing ‘kids’ for ‘pigs’,
Interestingly for a company which made such a contribution to our war effort, Minimax were, and now still are, a German owned company, founded in 1902 in Berlin, where the legendary cone-shaped fire extinguisher was developed. By 1906 Minimax was the main worldwide manufacturer of fire extinguishers - with foreign companies in Europe and the USA. It came to Feltham in 1910, taking over one of the first aircraft factories in England. Even more intriguing is the fact that the Secret Service HQ from 1924 to 1966 at 54 Broadway, known as the ‘Broadway Buildings’, had a fake plaque outside which said ‘Minimax Fire Extinguisher Company’. A strange choice, as the Germans, more than anyone, would have known that it was not. Next door at 55 Broadway was the Head Office of the Unioin Construction Company (UCC) of Feltham which before the war had manufactured the Feltham Tram and Underground carriages for the new Picadilly Line extension, whose premises were taken over by General Aircraft for Spitfire and other aircraft repair during the war!
This seems to be such a curious coincidence, ie apparently two (one bogus) Feltham firms with HQs next door to each other in central London that we could do with corroborative evidence
In addition to the famous fire extinguishers, they developed a portable fresh water distiller, known as the ‘K.M.’ Capable of producing 5 pints of fresh water per hour from sea water, it was issued to all British Merchant Ships, and to those of the Allies, and increased survival times in life-boats from 14 to 60 – 70 days. By 1945, 15-20,000 had been produced. The factory had its own Home Guard Section, and the strongest National Savings Group in West Middlesex.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
He was a goods train driver for the Southern Railway, as they were then known. He drove a steam train out of Feltham Marshalling Yards, and I know he often took supplies into the army depot, crossing Feltham High Street on the special line that ran near to the Red Lion public house.
He also did runs to Eastleigh and Southampton, working, sometimes, all night and through the following day.
Dad never told my Mother much about his work, and after he died before reaching retirement age, a letter was found from the Railway Company, thanking him for volunteering for driving ammunition wagons. We often wondered whether he knew what he was carrying, my Mother never knew. Unfortunately, Mother died shortly after Dad and the letter was lost.
Another war time memory of him was arriving home from the railway just in time to sit down for his Christmas Dinner with the family; and off again, back to his engine. How he loved those steam trains.
We lived in Shakespeare Avenue and he told me about standing one night, talking to our next door neighbour and a V1 doodlebug bomb coming towards them from what he called the Glebe Land. They both thought, this is for us! When it turned and went back the way it came. Who, I wonder was the unlucky person when the engine cut out and it exploded near them.
Like most families we kept chickens and rabbits in the back garden, and my job, whilst Dad was working, was to check on the young chicks, which he usually bought in Kingston Market. When old enough, they went into the run in the garden, so that we had good supply of eggs. One neighbour kept ducks as well and another had a pig. I am sure he must have had special permission to keep it. It frightened the life out of me one evening, while I was putting my cycle into the garden shed, when it suddenly started honking loudly
What a shock Monday morning, coming into work to find a direct hit had been made on the winding shop were I worked. I used to make up sleeving along with two lovely ladies and dear old Alf who used to sweep up and tidy in general.
It was Dot’s turn, with Alf, that night, to stay on after work to take their turn in fire watching. Lucky for Dot, she had gone to the other end of the factory, when the bomb had hit! Poor Alf did get blown into pieces! Can you imagine? At 14 years old, I went round with Dot and Marge, picking up pieces of Alf and putting them in a bucket.
We lived at 69 Swan Road, Hanworth; Dad had been picked for Post Warden, he was in charge of the warden’s post at the junction between Main Street and Swan Road. Being near to Feltham we had a lot of the fall out from raids made on the General Aircraft and the marshalling yards in Feltham.
As a general rule, dad used to go to the post. We stayed in bed when the sirens went, but this night, police came into the house and insisted we should go round the shelter. Flares over head lit the area like day light, and then the incendiary bombs came next! The raid was local. Our small estate received many high explosives. Going round to the shelter was so dangerous, what with shrapnel coming down like rain, and as we went round the corner of Swan Close a huge mobile (anti-aircraft gun) was pumping-up shells at the bombers. The brass cases were a danger themselves, flying out as we squeezed by. Shortly after entering our shelter there was a huge explosion! The house at the end of the shelter had a direct hit.
Two bodies were put in the other side of the shelter, in full view of us. We could see them through the square hole cut between the two halves of the shelter, for escape purposes.
It hardly seems possible but we did get a laugh a little later. One of the dads, who was a warden, called in to see if we were alright in the shelter. In the confusion he had forgotten the soil he had placed in his tin helmet, to put on to fire bombs, and he put his helmet on, with the resulting cascade of earth all over him!
One morning after a local raid, while walking to school, eyes open for shrapnel. I found an unexploded bomb in the ditch opposite our house. I found the fin a foot or two away. It looked like an incendiary bomb, but much larger. The fuse holes were just blackened.
What a find! Off came my coat and I wrapped it round the bomb. I sneaked off back home to hide it from Mum, till Dad came home. I was surprised I did not get told off, but he took it to the post to get it emptied for me. (They actually did this in those days.) He brought it back in the morning! This time I did get told off! The bomb had contained high explosives; later one of the wardens, Sid Weston, gave me £10.00 for it! (This was a lot of money in those days.)
The V1 hitting the shelter actually came very close to taking our roof off.
We were all in the front room and we could hear it getting closer, and when it went over the noise was terrible; and the pressure; we all thought the windows buckled in. I ran out, up to the cross roads just across the street from us and it had been a direct hit on this shelter! Dead bodies lay about, a woman lay screaming with the masonry on her head and every time they tried to move it, it bore more and heavier on her. A large piece of the V1 lay there smouldering, the actual cone containing the engine was still intact.
‘War or no war’ cycling still went on and regular trips to the coast! What a lovely site going through the Oxshott Woods, past Box Hill onto Leatherhead and Dorking, and for miles along the roadside there were amphibian craft waiting for the invasion. No one was about and what fun it was it to go into the shelters and look at equipment ready for the big push.
I spent the past of my time in the West Middlesex Hospital having my appendix out. There was local raid, the nurses’ quarters got bombed and one of the nurses (who got into lot of trouble for doing so) took me outside to see the Spitfires shooting at the Bombers in the glow of the search lights.
A few more thought attached - More Random Thoughts…
*Danger of unexploded shells on the roads.
*Tuck box at school (when raids on)
*Friend and I found stack of monster bombs on Field
*All that shrapnel in the streets
*5th of Bath water only
*Night in police cell for pinching warden’s roller
*First jet plane tipping wings of V1 Bomb.
*Horse meat every week!
My grandma and my aunt both lived in Railway Terrace at the other end of Feltham High Street. They both ran all the way down the town to us, a soon as they heard that a bomb had fallen in our part of Feltham. They didn’t stop to dress, except perhaps to put a coat on, I remember that they were still wearing their night clothes and bedroom slippers with fluffy bobbles on the uppers – and they had come all the way down the High Street like that. They were very anxious to know if we were alright. They stayed with us for 3 hours, arguing that we should all go back to Railway Terrace with them. But mother didn’t want to leave the house and in the end they walked all the way back to Bedfont Lane in their night clothes and slippers, just as they had come.
The next afternoon, our Uncle, who was in the ARP, walked us round so that we could see the big crater that the bomb had made.
Two girls died with their family, we went to school with them at Feltham Hill School and were friends with them. We went to their funeral too.
I think the Father was home on leave from the Army when the bomb fell and he was killed with the rest of his family. People said it was probably better that way – better than being abroad and receiving a telegram to say that your whole family had been killed and you had been left alone in the world. I went to see the grave in Feltham Cemetery a while ago. I was sorry to see that it had sunk a lot on one side, it’s a big grave. It’s a shame that it is not regularly looked after.
As the crisis between Europe and Germany became more serious, surface shelters were erected round Feltham Green. Air Raid Sirens were placed a strategic places round the town, and Anderson shelters were delivered to residents’ houses. When war broke out in September 1939, the local Civil Defence went into action. Training was given in the used of stirrup pumps at the Civil Defence H. Q., close by Bridge House Council Offices. Churches were put on alert in case their halls were needed for housing families bombed out from London. Ration Books and Gas Masks were issued from the Council Offices, and the dreaded blackout was put into operation. Petrol rationing was brought in for those with cars. Eventually, the coupons were only given to the emergency services and doctors. There was a small ration for the local taxi service, again only for an emergency.
The Feltham Railway Marshalling Yard was filled with wagons and vans of all sorts, and was working day and night. If, at night, the lights were to be seen, then there was an ‘all clear’, but if the marshalling yard lamps were turned-off one could expect an air raid that night.
Back gardens were turned into allotments, and vegetables grown beside the Anderson shelter. Chickens were also kept where there was room, to help out the egg ration. The Army Depot was full to overflowing with troops, and many soldiers were billeted-out with local families.
To help with meals, British Restaurants were set up by the Government as eating places for a nourishing meal at a reasonable price. Feltham’s was known as the Spelthorne Restaurant and was housed in the newly opened Parish Hall, which was at the rear of the Playhouse Cinema, where the Tesco’s car park is today.
The first bomb in the West London area was relatively small one, dropped randomly, one Friday evening, in Feltham High Street, close to Elmwood Avenue and the Army Depot.
Bedfont Recreation Ground became the home of an anti-aircraft unit with a very loud gun, which rattled the area when it was fired.
Although life was restricted and long hours were worked, the local population did the best they could and tried to get on with life. Cinemas were opened, and showed a small slide if an air raid warning had been sounded. National charities such as War Weapons Week and Spitfire Week were well supported. The General Aircraft Company at the end of Victoria Road was also working day and night repairing Supermarine Spitfire Aircraft, these were often seen flying over Hanworth Air Parks after repair and overhaul.
Later, the Hamilcar and Horsa Gliders were to be seen overhead. These gliders were designed and developed at G.A.L. and a number were built at the Feltham factory. Other factories were working full blast.
The Minimax Fire Extinguisher Company was on full production on the extinguishers; and also developing a de-salination gadget that could be placed in lifeboats, for anyone found adrift without water. This could turn sea water into a drinkable solution.
Little factories on the edge of the Air Park were turning out nuts and bolts by the thousand, and other essential items. As trains arrived at Feltham Station, crowds would be seen making their way to the factories in and around the town. Many of the residents worked on the Great West Road and spent long hours in the factories of the Golden Mile. Feltham people were proud of their war effort which helped gain ultimate victory.
There was an air raid warning on the day war broke out. Our neighbour, Mr White was terribly afraid that we would all be gassed by the Germans. He was a deeply religious man and was always saying that Armageddon was about to be visited upon us.
The siren was a false alarm, but Mr White rushed around trying to block up his chimneys in case the gas should come in that way. He panicked my mother into trying to cram a growing 18 month old child (me) into a gas tight baby’s box (that had probably been issued during the 1938 Munich crisis of the previous year) and was now far to small for me! My mother still remembers me screaming in protest.
Before we received an air raid shelter we would hide in the ‘gas cupboard’, or between the piano and the wall of the front room; mother would always lie on top of me to protect me. I hated this I always tried to push her off me.
When we were at school and there was an air raid on lessons would continue in the school air raid shelters between Hanworth Road Junior School and Cardinal Infants School.
We could not do a lot there, but the teachers would get us to recite things we’d been learning, chant multiplication tables etc. We sang ‘ten green bottles’ a lot, to keep our spirits up!
My father and his friend were with the Home Guard on the airfield at Hanworth Park, during a raid. The both heard a bomb falling and they threw themselves onto the ground, in the gutter of the roadway. After the explosion they were picking themselves up and getting back on their feet when a second bomb came down and the blast knocked both of them flat again.
August/September 1940 (Battle of Britain)
My mother remembers walking over the railway bridge, beside the station on Hounslow Road. She was on her way to the shops with me in a push-chair. Then the sirens went-off and she found herself caught in the open in a daylight air raid.
She remembers seeing German planes, with crosses on the underside of their wings, quite low and the German planes were fired upon by machine guns that were mounted on the roof of the 50 Shilling Tailors’ shop (Burtons?) at the northern end of Feltham High Street.
She ran down into the town from the top of the bridge, she was too far from Durham Road (off Harlington Road) to go home for shelter.
As she ran down the High Street, looking for a public shelter, a man from Goodworth’s shop (possibly the proprietor) opened his door and bundled her into the shelter of the shop doorway. He then helped her across the road, with the push-chair, to the shelters that stood on the Green.
Bedfont Recreation Ground off Hatton Road had 4 heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns set on it. These are reputed to have shot down a German bomber that crashed in Bushy Park. The General Aircraft Factory had twin Lewis machine guns at the front of the hangar, pointing out over the airfield to shoot at German parachutists, in case they should land on this great open space. There were also Oerlikon AA canons at the Airfield Gate, near the Airman Public House.
My father was on Home Guard/ARP duty the night the V1 fell upon the RASC Depot; he was close enough for the blast of the exploding flying bomb to bowl him over and blow him off his feet.
The Home Guard used to practise throwing grenades on Hounslow Heath.
It was a Sunday and it was raining. My father was at a Home Guard meeting in the hut across Twickenham Road, opposite Ranger’s newsagent’s shop. We were in our Morrison Shelter inside our house. They said that those Doodlebugs would glide for a bit after their engines cut out; this one didn’t. We heard the engine stop and it came straight down.
One poor chap was blown to bits. They hardly recovered anything of him. He was walking past the surface shelter when the bomb landed on it. He was walking home to his house at the head of The Close, from Rangers shop at the end of the road.
The Americans from Bushy Park were the first to get to the scene with their ambulances. They took my sister to hospital. My father was blown off his feet and up the road by the blast. The blast killed all the chickens that we kept in our back garden and our Sunday roast was so peppered with broken glass that we couldn’t eat any of it. That was minor damage, the chimney on our house had come down and through the roof and all the ceilings were down.
One family had a few members killed. One of the sons was an outstanding footballer, and a nephew became a policeman and later retired to Bournemouth; he organised an anniversary memorial service at St. George’s Church, Hanworth and came back for it (2004?).
There was a big house in St. George’s Road; the (auxiliary wartime) fire brigade had it as an HQ. But the bomb in The Close left a family’s 8 children without a roof over their heads and the firemen were cleared out and the house was given to them.
I was evacuated to Seaford after that, it was a family arrangement and I stayed with relatives.
When war broke out the new Chertsey by-pass road was tuned into a lorry park for the army. Us kids used to walk along there and clamber on the vehicles. Some of them had signs hung on then saying ‘No Water’. We couldn’t understand that, but I suppose it meant that they had been drained and were not capable of being driven away without proper preparation.
Kempton Park was a big German Prisoner of War camp. The PoW’s were taken out each day to do agricultural work; Hanworth Smallholdings was regular place that you could see them. They had brightly coloured patches sewn onto their trouser knees and the backs of their jacket to identify them as PoW’s.
I was in Germany once, drinking in a bar, and I got into conversation with this man and he asked me if I knew a place called Kempton Park; I’ll say I did! He’d been a Luftwaffe pilot; he spoke good English and had been to University here before the war. Kempton Park PoW camp is where he ended up. He remembered the Reservoir public house very well. A lot of the Prisoners of War would drink there; it became closely associated with the Germans. He told me that a lot of local girls had been very nice to them. And the farmers and smallholders that they went out to work for every day would pay them pocket money so they could drink a bit in the Reservoir. Quite a few local girls married these PoW’s.
The Germans built themselves a wooden hut near the old Jolly Sailor public house and used it as a chapel; it’s still a Baptist or Methodist church of some kind.
Les told me tragic story of a German Pow who’d made a local girl, of 17-or-so, pregnant and he was keen to do the right thing and marry her. But her father had had a bad time in the First World War and he hated the Germans, so that he wouldn’t hear of it. One day, the German turned up on his doorstep, in Hanworth, with a gun, goodness knows how he’d got hold of it. And he shot the girl’s father dead and then himself, too! The tragedy made the national newspapers and quite a few of the older people will remember it.
I remember that there were no lights in the air raid shelters, they were awful places. The exhaust from the paraffin heaters would blacken your face; you could hardly believe the dirt when you woke up in the morning, after a night in one of those shelters.
There was a searchlight behind the Swan public house on some of Page’s nursery land. I remember that a van arrived with a soldier in it; he was looking for the searchlight and asking the way to it. We boys had been warned about nosey parkers like that and we wouldn’t tell him anything at first. In the end he got out of the van and opened it up and showed us the enormous light bulb that he was delivering to the searchlight unit. Then we decided that it was all right to trust him and we told him where to go.
Park Road had a Home Guard machine gun nest that was intended to cover the open ground at Hanworth Air Park against German paratroopers landing there. You can still see it if you know what to look for. Its remains are on the left, opposite the old Rectory house.
‘Big Bertha’, the anti-aircraft gun stood on Bedfont Recreation Ground.
• West Middlesex Hospital specialised in treating severely injured pilots, shot up during the Battle of Britain. Some of them died and are in war graves just over the wall from the hospital in Isleworth’s Park Road cemetery. I helped to get those forgotten and neglected graves recognised and they are now looked after as official War Graves.
• I’ve heard people say that The Airman public house is haunted by ghostly pilots from World War II. They come and go, sitting at the bar sometimes and then vanishing. People say that they’ve heard their voices too.
• I believe that Freddie Mills, the boxer, got to know The Airman during the war when he was making deliveries for the forces or for General Aircraft, at the Air Park.
The first memory is of the V1 incident in The Close, Hanworth, on 20th August 1944.
I was in my aunt’s house in Devonshire Road and it was daylight when the warning went. I ran out of my aunt’s house to go to our shelter, when I heard a loud noise above, I looked up to see a flying bomb heading towards me. Then the engine cut out and it started to drop, I ran back into my aunt’s house and fell flat on the floor when the flying bomb whistled over the rooftops. A couple of seconds later there was a terrific bang and the back of my aunt’s house came in, I was under a lot of bricks and window frames. I managed to get out and went outside to see what it had hit, and it was a shelter at the bottom of my aunt’s garden in a field. The Shelter that the bomb hit had my mate in. He got out alive, but his parents, in the next shelter, were killed.
29/30 Nov 1940
We were in our shelter one night when the warning went. A few seconds after, we heard the German planes come over and they started dropping bombs. All of a sudden there was bombs whistling down and a big explosion. Although our shelter was underground dust was everywhere. When the all clear went we went out to see what damage had been done. We could see flames and smoke coming from over the back of us from Devonshire Road. We found out later a bomb had a direct hit on a house and damaged other houses in the street, but lucky enough no-one was hurt they were all in the shelter.
During the war, we had several dog fights in the sky above us. Planes from Hanworth Airport used to take off and you could hear them diving about and their guns going off. One day they shot down a German plane, which came down on a golf course on Twickenham Road. Me and my mates went along to see it, the police had put a rope around it to stop people getting too near, but we could see the skid marks it made when it came down and apart from bits of the plane missing, it was intact, but you could see the pilot was still in the cockpit, dead. We had a lot of barrage balloons all around us to protect the planes in Hanworth Airport, but I had never seen any planes get caught in them.
Most nights we would go and sleep in our shelter at the bottom of our garden that my dad had built. He was a bricklayer and he built it deep down so we would be safe. One night we were down there and it’s a night I will never forget, talk about a cat with nine lives. The warning went and in no time at all, we could hear bombs dropping, I must have just dropped off to sleep, the next thing I remember is my dad running into the shelter telling us to get out quick and make our way down to the shelters in Hanworth recreation ground. We didn’t know till later that we had been sleeping only 10 yards away from an unexploded bomb in next door’s garden. This is a night I will remember for the rest of my life.
This particular day I was in the Rex Cinema with my mates when the screen went blank; then on the screen it said ‘file outside’. When we got outside instead of turning right to go home, the police told us to go left and go the other way home. We didn’t know at the time what was wrong, but I had just got home and was about to open the door when there was a terrific bang and my back door fell in and I was knocked to the ground with glass and bricks on top of me. I managed to get up with just a couple of cuts. My mum and dad were out at the time and we found out later that a land mine had come down and got stuck in some wire and cable and hadn’t touched the ground, but it sagged, touched the ground and went off.
This particular night the warning went and German planes came over and started dropping flares and incendiary bombs all around Hanworth, the sky was lit up, it was like daylight. We could see we were going to have a big raid so we all got in our shelters when all of a sudden we heard bombs whistling down. They were after the planes in Hanworth Airport.
Next morning when we came out of our shelter there was debris all over the place, me and my mates use to go looking for bits of bombs and bullets and burnt out incendiary bombs.
I came to Bedfont from Ireland as a young child, with my parents. My mum’s sisters were already living here, in Bedfont Lane. My parents and my mum’s sister’s family ended up living next door to each other in the two ‘concrete houses’, just off Bedfont Lane. Their gardens backed onto the gravel pit that was eventually filled-in and is now Blenheim Park.
I remember that gravel pit being stocked with fish; I must have been about 5 years old then. I loved to fish. I would go down to the pit to fish before I went to school in the morning and again when I got home in the afternoon.
I think the ‘concrete houses’ were an experiment. They were made of reinforced concrete. It was quite unusual for a house to be built that way in those days.
We had Anderson (air-raid) shelters in the garden, about 20 feet from the back of the house. The pair of shelters were together. The water level in the gravel pit was 12–steps-down, so the shelters weren’t too wet inside.
I was an only son. My mother’s sister had nine children. Whenever the sirens went we would all dash out to the shelters. We were in an out of those shelters all the time during the Blitz.
The night that it happened I went to bed about 10 o’clock in the evening. No siren had sounded that evening and there was no siren in the night. But I heard the whistling noise that the bomb made as it was falling. And it landed right on the two shelters in our gardens at the back of the house! Well, the roof of our house was blown clean off!! And the house itself was lifted and shifted 10–inches off its foundations. But it didn’t collapse! A piece of our Anderson shelter was blown so high into the air that it fell down at Feltham Station – people went along to stare at it!
All over what was left of our house, the concrete was blown off the reinforcement of steel mesh and you could see through the walls in some places. I remember them carrying me out and seeing the huge hole, already full of water, where our shelters had been.
They thought that a lone enemy aircraft must have got-in, under the radar. Perhaps it was looking for the reflection of light on the water surface of Kempton Park Water Works Reservoirs; and it saw the Blenheim Park gravel pit instead.
Anyway, it’s a strange thing that we weren’t in our shelters the night of that air raid. And that’s how come I lived to tell you the story…..
We went to stay with my mum’s other sister, who also had a house in Bedfont Lane. Later on, we got another house in The Drive.
My aunt’s children were parcelled out amongst other relatives for a little while. Both those ‘concrete houses’ were written-off by that bomb!
I remember my mother’s nerves were never very strong after that. Hearing a siren would upset her…. And then you might have no warning at all – just as we had none, that night!
Bomb Damage to Church and School Buildings
It was reported that damage had been done to the Church and School Buildings as the result of a Flying Bomb falling near Florence Villas on Wednesday morning August 2nd. As a result of this bomb a considerable number of the houses of our members had received damage. It was agreed to record the sympathy of the Church Members for those who had thus suffered. On the motion, moved by Miss King and seconded by Mrs Jaquet, the special thanks of the Church Members was passed to Mrs Tabor for the splendid way in which she had tackled the mess caused by the glass window etc., and also to Mr and Mrs Holden for dealing with the situation on the day, and cleaning the window frames of the splinters.
My father was a carter for Mr. Reynolds who had a little haulage business and still used horses. Mr. Reynolds gave up in 1939 and sold the business to the Page’s who had extensive nurseries and glass houses either side of Oak Avenue, just across the Hampton boundary. My father went with the business and he looked after the horses for Page’s during the war. He fed them turn and turn about with Mr. Rayner. When there was a raid on my father would go down to their stables and let the horses out into the field. I remember going with him to do this, one night when the district was being heavily raided, it was 11 o’clock and we set off together down the Hounslow Road towards Bear Road and Hanworth Village. There had been a cottage on the east side of Hounslow Road, opposite Park Road, just north of Swift Road; now it was rubble, dashed across the Hounslow Road as though a giant hand had lifted it up and smashed it down on the road surface. It had taken a direct hit, I didn’t see it happen but I remember how shocked I was to see a place I’d always taken for granted just destroyed like that.
During the war years Page’s nurseries accumulated a lot of unexploded bombs. At the end of the war it was Americans from Bushy Park who came and spent several weeks making them safe. I think the German bombers must have been looking for Kempton Waterworks and its reservoirs and mistaken the acres of shining sheets of glass house roof for the water surface of the reservoirs on a moonlight night.
At number 46 Winslow Way, a woman, was killed when the house received a direct hit. She had been in her shelter in the garden, but she went back into the house to get something from her home.
We went either to the Council Shelter in Winslow Way, or to Number 7 (of 10) shelter in the grounds of Oriel School. The number 7 shelter was just behind our house in Winslow Way. There was a wire fence between our back gardens and the school grounds but lots of people cut holes in the fence so that they could use the school air raid shelters at night. These shelters were all made of cast concrete slabs and were all above ground – surface shelters. They had four rooms, you could go in at either end and get from one room to the other by a hole about 3 feet square cut into the concrete partition between them – so that you could escape from either end in an emergency; but you couldn’t get from the pair of rooms on one side into the pair opposite – the central partition was complete.”
It was a surface shelter like this, in The Close, that a flying bomb landed on.
The Close was part of a development of Council Houses along the north side of Twickenham Road. To the east of The Close the houses were set back from Twickenham Road behind a broad grass verge. A friend was a casualty and he came back to school after a while, but his face was always marked by burn scars after that. Another chap, a good little footballer who played for Hanworth, he was killed.
A Land Mine fell into one of the back gardens of the houses south of the Rex Cinema on Hampton Road West – they’re set back from the main road and face onto a service road. The Land Mine didn’t go off. The man there got up and went to feed the chickens he was keeping in his garden and found it sitting there. A lot of houses were evacuated while they made it safe. Winslow Way, where I lived, that was cleared. It wasn’t for long so they didn’t take us anywhere, they just told us to clear out for a while.
A Spitfire knocked a chunk out of the spire of Hanworth Church one day. And Lord Haw Haw, he said on the radio that he knew that the clock on Hanworth Church was five minutes out; people went out to look – and he was quite right too! I don’t know where he got his information from?
It was the same everywhere; if the air raid siren went when you were on your way to school you had a right to turn around and go home and take shelter with your parents. You were supposed to be less than half-way to school when you did that. But the rule was stretched as far as the school gates. If you hadn’t gone through the school gates when the siren went, then you could go home. I sometimes went home and didn’t hear the all-clear sound, so I stayed there and never went back to school that day.
8/9 1940 Battle of Britain
I remember standing in the back garden of our home in Winslow Way and looking up into the sky and counting 39 German aircraft, all flying in formation and heading south - back to northern France and the continent. There was one lone English fighter plane chasing after them. I often wonder what happened to that fighter plane.
An English aircraft - a fighter - was shot down and crash landed near Kempton Park. There was great to–do because the pilot was a Polish man and spoke very little English – or perhaps very heavily accented English. He was taken for a German because we were so eager that the shot–down fighter should be one of theirs and not of ours!
My aunt lived in one of the houses as the head of the close. We lived on one the houses in the same development but on the Twickenham Road - No 2, The Close, later No 50, Twickenham Road. Opposite my aunt’s house, at the head of The Close, lived a family – in which the parents died as a result of the explosion, but their three children survived. The family were not in one of the shelters, they were in their house.
The sirens went that Sunday to warn us that flying bombs had been sighted. When the flying bombs got close, a second alarm consisting of three ‘pips’ would go off.
I was in the garden at my aunt’s house. I heard the three ‘pips’ and saw the flying bomb almost immediately. Its engine stopped; it didn’t glide; it came straight down and blew me back into my aunt’s house. I remember the haze of orange smoke, full of dirt and dust that hung over everything. I remember the cries of the people in the shelters, calling “get us out”! My sister stumbled through the fog of dust, she was looking for me, but I’d been blown off my feet by the blast and was not where she had last seen me.
Another family were in their garden too. The mother was deaf and probably didn’t hear either the siren or the ‘pips’. Both she and her daughter were killed. We went to stay with an Aunt in Kingston for a few days, because our house was too badly damaged by the blast to be lived in. Our Sunday joint was in the oven when the bomb hit. When we went inside and looked at the oven the carving knife that had been on the table was thrust into the roasting meat. We could never understand how that had happened!
My cousin - my aunt’s daughter was married, not long, to a soldier who had just left us to return to Northern France and the Allied Invasion Campaign. He missed the doodlebug incident by just a day or two.
I remember an UXB (Unexploded Bomb) incident opposite our house, across the Twickenham Road. The lad who came to make the bomb safe was only 18 years old; we all had to get out of our homes while he did that.
I also remember the land mine that came down near the Rex Cinema, it fell in a garden and its parachute was caught up in tree or some bushes. It hung suspended for a while, and before it fell to the ground and exploded. I heard that birds or chickens had been pecking at its cords and that is what caused it to fall, in the end!
My grandmother moved into the terrace around 1900 and even then the houses were deemed to be ‘unfit for the habitation’. But they weren’t knocked down until the early 1960s! My grandmother had hurricane lamps for lighting when she first lived there. There was no gas lighting in the terrace until the 1930’s.
The privy was a shed and a bucket in the garden and soil collectors came every few days with a horse and a cart. Just before the war sewer drainage into a septic tank on waste ground beside the terrace was put in. My father drove the lorry that took away the earth from the pit that septic tank was dug into.
He often said that if it wasn’t for him there would be no toilets in the terrace - he was exaggerating a wee bit, he did that! The septic tank that served the terrace had to be pumped out every week.
Anderson Shelters were brought to Railway Terrace in the summer of 1939. They had to be dug into a trench in the garden and you bolted the pre-fabricated iron sheets together. My father got some railway sleepers and had them cut short so he could lay them across an extended shelter-trench to roof it. This meant that our shelter was a bit bigger than and not as cramped as some.
My younger brother was a baby then. I wasn’t much help with the digging, I was too young and mostly got in the way.
I was packed off to school at Southville in the early autumn of 1939, probably because my mother was tired of the mischief I got into at home and I was just then old enough to go. But war broke out just then. I remember that on the day war broke out there was false alarm and we all rushed to take cover from the air-raid that never came!
Every night, through the autumn and winter of 1939 - 40, we would sleep in that air raid shelter. My grandmother always made us cocoa and my uncle was a farm worker who grew potatoes and he’d bring us potatoes to cook in their jackets. But, although I can look back on it with some nostalgia, I wouldn’t like to have to do it again. The shelter was dusty and cold and always damp-damp concrete has a smell all of its own.
An incendiary bomb fell on Mac’s shop in the terrace. It didn’t do all that much damage, but it was enough to make him give up the shop – he was getting on by then. The shop was boarded up after that, but. We didn’t find any left over sweets; but we made a bit of a den of the place.
We were in the shelter in our garden when there was a great thump! Debris from a damaged German bomber had landed on the roof of the shelter. A large piece of broken metal was lying there and some mangled hydraulic piping attached to it.
Planes flew right over us going to and from the airfield in Hanworth Park, where Spitfires were repaired. I saw one from our garden. It was obviously in trouble, coming into land. Its propeller fell off and came down in the garden of number 12, next door to us. It was a twin bladed propeller and it half buried itself in the soft earth of the garden!
I heard that the plane was being flown by the Air Park Test Pilot – Tim “Timber” Woods and that he’d glided it into the park after the propeller had broken off it. He took care to enquire whether anyone had been hurt as a result of the accident-no one was.
Two incendiary bombs went straight through the scullery roof of No 16 one night. And she slept right through the whole palaver. One of my uncle’s was at home on leave at the time and he kicked her door in and put the bombs out, she never woke!
My aunt lived at number 13 in the Terrace and I would go along the back alley every night, to fetch her to our shelter. She hated walking down the narrow alley in the dark. There was a full moon one night and that upset her even more than the darkness! She was convinced that we could be seen by pilots of the German bombers-they must have had eyes like hawks, to believe her ideas on the subject! She insisted on crawling along the back alley to our gate on her hands and knees! And she was most upset that I wouldn’t do the same-she was reaching out and trying to cuff me! She was scolding me and telling me to get down on my knees behind her! I got cuffed a lot in those days, I didn’t mind!
Number 20 had a big garden. A bomb slit a tree in the garden one night, but half the tree survived and was still in leaf after the war. Anyway, that bomb never did go off and was reported as a UXB.
They came and looked for it in her garden so that it could be made safe; but they couldn’t find it! We speculated about it hitting the tree and re-bounding off in another direction. We looked all around but it was no where to be found; whether it had managed to bury itself on soft earth I don’t know. For all I know that bomb might still be there to this day!
My grandmother made cocoa for everybody! She made it for the wardens as they were searching for this unexploded bomb! She would make it for the railwaymen on their way to the Marshalling yards, whose trains would be held at the main line signal, along side Railway Terrace, waiting for a path over the down like and into the yards. We knew a lot of the local train crews; they lived in the Southern Estate housing off the Bedfont Lane, which was built for them by the railway in the early 1920s.
While this flap over the UXB went on, we were sent along to Bridge House, where the Council had their offices; we spent the rest of the night there and in the morning we were given a cup of tea and a sandwich for breakfast.
I don’t know how it was they never found it (UXB) the men were there for most of week searching for it. We weren’t out of our homes that long though. They soon concluded that if it hadn’t gone off already it probably wasn’t going to explode at all.
My (other) aunt lived in Denison Road, I used to go down there regularly and play on the swings in the little park there with my cousins. Back in Railway Terrace, at home one night, we heard the terrible whooshing screaming noise that a falling bomb will make and my grandmother shouted “get down! This one’s for us!”
But it wasn’t, it fell a little way off and we guessed that it had fallen near Aunt Phyllis’s house in Lower Feltham. I went along (with some of my family) to see if Aunt Phyllis was all right.
The bomb had fallen in Ellington Road, just along from Denison Road. My cousin had a friend who lived there, one of the children, a girl of six or seven and about my age. I had been playing with her on the swings the night before; we were quite fond of each other. She’d said to me that last time I saw her “would I be coming down the park again tomorrow night?” And I had said that I would. Now she was dead; for that was the night that she was killed by the bomb that fell on her house.
They always did their best to clear the damage and the rubble quickly. Nobody wanted the Germans to have the satisfaction of coming back to photograph scenes of awful destruction. My father was a lorry driver with William Bowyer’s business at St Alban’s Farm, opposite Hounslow Heath.
I rode around with my father in the lorry, clearing rubble from bombs sites in London and dumping it on open ground here and there, where sites for tripping had been authorised.
Some of the rubble was spread for road bedding in one of the first post-war New Towns, near Hatfield.
Bowyers delivered construction material to a Mulberry Harbour building site near Weybridge. They were all Irishmen working on the job in those days, because all our lads were in the forces. My father said to one of them....”Pat” (he called them all Pat, whatever their names might have been) “Pat, what are you working on today?”
We didn’t know about the Mulberry Harbour that was to be floated over to France, in support of the D-Day landing - it was a secret project. ‘Pat’ said to my dad that they were building ‘concrete ships’!
I don’t know whether my dad thought that ’Pat’ was pulling his leg, or whether he was a stereotypical, stupid Irishman who couldn’t be expected to understand what he was doing and just followed instructions! But ‘Pat’ was nearly right......those cast concrete caissons were designed to float and to be towed over to the beach at Arromanches, where they were aligned to form the breakwaters of a harbour for Allied military supplies to be landed.
I remember that one of our own bombers crashed near Iver in 1944 and because we were out that way we went and saw it. There’s an obelisk in the park, there to this day and an annual memorial service to remember the crew. The plane was smashed to bits, with one if its 4 engines broken clean off the wing.
We boys were determined to do our bit, if the Germans invaded us. We were going to stay behind and fight the Germans, alongside our fathers who were in the Home Guard. We needed to be ready so a few of us made catapults and collected a store of small rounded stones from the handy local sources of grave and ballast. But rubber and elastic were in terribly short supply. We turned to crime, all in a good cause! One night I crept outside and stole four pairs of women’s knickers from a local washing line! It was the only source of decent elastic that we could think of! We hid this secret cache of arms in the side of a pit in a nearby field, in case the day ever came that we night need to use them against the enemy. It’s a good thing we never had to do that!
I remember a land mine fell on he marshalling yard and caused good traffic to back-up, at a halt, all over the local railway lines for miles around.
My aunt was called up for War Work at the Depot (RASC Feltham). That was hit by doodlebug one day and there was a big fire.